Political Animal


May 12, 2011 8:00 AM Gingrich launches the ultimate vanity project

By Steve Benen

Disgraced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has, to one degree or another, been planning a presidential campaign for the better part of two decades. He took steps towards a national campaign in 1995, before walking it back. Gingrich did it again in 2000. And once more in 2008.

When, two months ago, his aides said he would launch an exploratory committee, only to have the former Speaker scrap his own plan in the 11th hour, it started to seem like Gingrich was a practical joker with only one gag: fooling the media into thinking he was serious.

But that all changed yesterday. This time, he’s actually going through with it.

The tweet finally landed at 4:19 p.m. Wednesday. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, a fixture in the Republican Party for three decades, became a candidate for president.

Though it was long expected, the announcement was something of a milestone in presidential politics — the first such declaration via Twitter, with the requisite link to his video statement.

Like others in the Republican field, Gingrich, 67, has been moving steadily toward a candidacy for months. But in formally declaring, he set himself on an uncertain journey that will test whether his assets can overcome his liabilities.

At the risk of sounding obnoxious, I haven’t the foggiest idea what these purported “assets” might be.

Despite the media’s fascination with the man, Newt Gingrich is a pseudo-intellectual clown who rose to the rank of Speaker of the House, only to be forced to resign in disgrace by his own Republican caucus. Gingrich’s most notable accomplishment during his fairly brief tenure was shutting down the government — twice — and impeaching a sitting president over adultery, while he personally was also committing adultery.

Indeed, Gingrich’s personal life is over-the-top sleazy, even by contemporary GOP standards. He haggled over the terms of his divorce from his first wife while she was in the hospital, recovering from uterine cancer surgery, and had already proposed to his second wife before he was divorced from his first. After his second wife was diagnosed with MS, Gingrich had an affair with a 33-year-old congressional aide, and asked his third wife to marry him before he was divorced from his second.

He later blamed his adultery on his patriotism, and made arguments such as, “The Democratic Party has been the active instrument of breaking down traditional marriage.”

If we’re really going to talk about Newt Gingrich’s “assets” as a national candidate, I’m left to conclude he’s about as credible a presidential contender as I am.

Yesterday, I started perusing some of the recent items I’ve published about Newt, just to refresh my memory, and even I was surprised at how stark raving mad he’s been. Remember in March, when Gingrich spoke at a bigoted pastor’s church and said the left wants to create a “secular atheist country,” which would be “dominated by radical Islamists”? How about the claim that President Obama and his allies represent “as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union once did”?

With everyone well aware that the campaign kick-off announcement was on the way, several reporters ran terrific summaries this week, featuring some of Gingrich’s greatest hits. Media Matters’ overview is brutal, as is TPM’s. Mother Jones had a very well researched quote collection, spanning 33 years in public life, and Jay Bookman, who’s covered Gingrich up close, had a Top 10 list of his own.

What’s fascinating, though, about reading all of these is that there’s only a little overlap. Gingrich’s record of pure madness is so extensive — America’s only consistent source of limitless, renewable energy — that comprehensive collections invariably leave stuff out. Hell, as much as I enjoyed those greatest hits pieces, some of my personal favorites from Newt’s background didn’t even make the cut.

The man is ridiculous, and he will never be President of the United States.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • John R AKA Mr. Serf Man on May 12, 2011 8:14 AM:

    You see this syndrome all the time....Fox Derangement Syndrome. They spend so much time inside the FAUX NOOZE BUBBLE that they actually come to accept it as their reality. Only in that universe would a dirtbag like Newt run for president, or for that matter even think that there was the kind of support that would allow him to be elected . A sad commentary on our times . 20 years ago he would have been run out of town on a rail and with people laughing in his face "You? President? AHHAHAHAHA.

  • RepublicanPointOfView on May 12, 2011 8:15 AM:

    Newt Gingrich is emminently qualified to be the Republican nominee as the next ruler of the United States. Newt has always been the idea man representing the intellectual side of the republican party. We know this with absolute certainty because our corporately owned media consistently tell us so.

    In addition to being the serious intellect, Newt shall be running his campaign as being the family values candidate. After his conversion to Catholicism, Newt purchased the annulment of his prior marriages. Therefore, dispite Benen's assertions otherwise, in the eyes of the church Newt has only been married once and is not a serial adulterer.

  • hells littlest angel on May 12, 2011 8:15 AM:

    President, no. Fuhrer? Time will tell.

  • c u n d gulag on May 12, 2011 8:20 AM:

    "SHE turned me into a NEWT!

    I never got better..."

  • Craig Stoneberg on May 12, 2011 8:25 AM:

    Newt's campaign committee should be known as "The Fornicating for Freedom Fantasy Forum" with Rush Limbaugh as chair.

  • c u n d gulag on May 12, 2011 8:27 AM:

    I just went to CNN to read about this, and there was Newts picture there.

    At first, I didn't realize it was him.

    I thought the Stay Puff Marshmallow man got old, or the Michelin Tire Man got fat(ter).

    I read somewhere that some in the MSM nicknamed him "The Professor."
    I'm hoping there's some irony there and that its like naming your turtle "Speedy," or a morbidly obese friend, "Slim."

  • DAY on May 12, 2011 8:28 AM:

    Yes, but: the MSM loves a serious intellectual with Big Ideas. Such as, quoting Camus in his announcement speech.

    I saw a brief clip yesterday, of Newt and a Fembot. Now I know where the Donald got his hairstyle!

  • Newton Whale on May 12, 2011 8:33 AM:

    The question I would like to see a journalist ask Newt:

    On Nov. 3, 1998 you were reelected to Congress, but were challenged for the speaker's job by other republicans who blamed you for the party's loss of seats. Three days later, you said "I'm willing to lead, but I'm not willing to preside over people who are cannibals". You not only resigned as speaker, but quit the house entirely. If you are elected president, and things get tough, will you once again quit?

  • navamske on May 12, 2011 8:35 AM:

    Gingrichs most notable accomplishment during his fairly brief tenure was shutting down the government twice and impeaching a sitting president over adultery, while he personally was also committing adultery.

    Let's remember the context as well. This is Newt "I shut down the federal government because President Clinton was mean to me" Gingrich.

  • Jeff In Ohio on May 12, 2011 8:50 AM:

    The GOP presidential primary is going to be an epic battle of asshats. I can not wait!

  • T2 on May 12, 2011 9:10 AM:

    It looks increasingly like running for the GOP nomination is the latest form of "fund raising" in the Republican ranks. Jump in, grab as much money as possible over a few months, then make the "I'm done" speech and start counting the money. At this rate, there could be 20-30 GOPers in the race soon.
    Gingrich, I realized, will be around 69 when the actual presidential election arrives...too old....we saw that with McCranky- he wore down.

  • pj in jesusland on May 12, 2011 9:11 AM:

    If Newt is so qualified for President why did he have so many young staffers and campaign workers giving him blow jobs. Some apparently were younger than Monica Lewinski.

  • Marko on May 12, 2011 9:25 AM:

    DEMS: Is there anyone else up there we can talk to?

    REPS: No! Now go away or I shall taunt you for a second time-uh! PLLLBBBBTTTTTtttt.....

  • j on May 12, 2011 9:28 AM:

    Newt says 'the president does not share our values' and you have to agree with him.
    President Obama has just had the one wife, is not a serial adulterer, and he did not (like Newt)try to kill medicare and social security.

  • Anonymous on May 12, 2011 9:31 AM:

    I wonder if they are betting on the restraint of the press not to go after Callista, if they keep her so tightly adhered to Newt you can't see daylight between them.

    I think the press would have no problems slamming Newt's horndogginess, but they'd be reluctant to do it with Callista sitting right there. The slightest reference to Newt's infidelities will spur an indignant claim of sexism.

    But maybe not. She's managed to craft her personal appearance to be oddly unsympathetic. How can you feel sorry for someone with that hair, those popping eyes, that rictus grin?

  • kevo on May 12, 2011 9:34 AM:

    Newt Gingrich, the Buzz Lightyear of American politics!

    Yeah, yeah Newt, we know, "To infinity and beyond!"

    BFD! -Kevo

  • bdop4 on May 12, 2011 9:47 AM:

    Like Sarah Palin, it's all about the money.

    He's looking to augment his revenue stream for the next two years and keep in media profile alive so he can continue to sell his snake oil.

  • Texas Aggie on May 12, 2011 9:49 AM:

    Steve, not to quibble, but

    "The man is ridiculous, and he will never be President of the United States."

    What about the veritable army of equally ridiculous individuals who are now congresspeople and senators? How did they get there?

  • N.Wells on May 12, 2011 10:17 AM:

    "The man is ridiculous, and he will never be President of the United States."
    G.W. Bush. R. Reagan.
    Oh for Steve's level of confidence and optimism.

  • nemisten on May 12, 2011 10:44 AM:

    Here's hoping Newt, Mitt, QuitterGov, Bachman, Huckabee, and the entire Rogue's Gallery of Loony GOP Candidates waste millions of $$$ bloodying themselves silly!

    It's the Freak Show of the Century, and all can watch in amazement.

  • Daniel Kim on May 12, 2011 11:09 AM:

    It looks like I'm the one who has to say this:

    I won't believe it until he releases the long form of his announcement.

  • justaguy2 on May 12, 2011 12:55 PM:

    The fact that he's using "Newt2012" on his campaign shows just how unserious he is. It's like running as an Our Gang character; "Spanky2012". Honestly.

    I hope he can convince Rove to be his VP; "NewtTurdBlossom2012"

  • cwolf on May 12, 2011 2:05 PM:

    You severely underestimated yourself with this:

    If we�re really going to talk about Newt Gingrich�s �assets� as a national candidate, I�m left to conclude he�s about as credible a presidential contender as I am.

    ...& what's up with the Fk'n CAPTCHA

  • cwolf on May 12, 2011 2:08 PM:

    @ me, cwolf on May 12, 2011 2:05 PM:

    Holy Crap !
    I think I found a bug.

  • JS on May 12, 2011 3:21 PM:

    What are his assets?

    The Tea Party's strength, Dick Cheney's steel (shotgun), Newt's brain. And why didn't you list the wheelbarrow amongst the assets in the first place??

    (Oh what Gingrich wouldn't give for a Holocaust cloak to scare the beejebus out of the American voters...)